Young asks tough questions when he helps producers face their challenges
Jace Young understands just how difficult production agriculture can be. He grew up in western Kansas on an operation his grandfather had established in the 1950s and grew it into a multi-million dollar operation by 2005. His father ran the 14,000 head feedyard portion of the operation while his uncles farmed and his two aunts ran the office.
The family ushered in 2005 and with it, the decline and collapse of the operation. He said his grandfather fed a significant number of his own cattle and unsuccessfully traded contracts, losing the operation in a matter of months. Still in high school, he watched his mother cry every day for two years and his parents moved from the home that was theirs for 25 years, the home where the couple had raised their children. He watched his parents file for bankruptcy, lose vehicles, and be left only with a shoebox containing their savings from flush years in the cattle business.
Without any outside farm ground and the feedyard gone, his father went to work for a local company. Young said he returned home earlier this month to help his parents move into the first home they were able to purchase after the long process of financial recovery.
“A lot of people can talk about it happening, but the different perspective I bring is that I watched it all go down,” he said.
A graduate of Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan., Young spent a few years in ag lending which further shed light on the financial habits of agricultural producers. While in lending, he said an extraordinary percentage of clients relied on the banker to complete their operation’s cash flow. The operators who completed cash flows and knew the profitability of each part of their operation, he said, were profitable even in the tough years.
His training program, Legacy Farmer Academy, can be joined after a personal interview with Young and allows him to guide producers through the challenges they face that oftentimes keeps them from being profitable. In learning how to be a modern day marketer, he said some participants are electing to diversify into fields that aren’t dependent upon market prices, ranging from custom haying to selling crop insurance, allowing them to bridge the gap, grow in scale, and create additional sources of income.
Young’s typical client is a young producer, aged 25 to 45, and are primarily males though he does have a few female clients, one of whom is one of his top performers. Being the principals of their operations and the leaders of both their businesses and families, the common thread is the lack of cash flow.
The first phase is delving into difficult conversations about how the participants view money and how their outlook must change.
“I’m asking them some really hard questions and I quickly make them realize that until they change their mindset and how they operate and the way they think and how they handle conversations and how they handle stress and how they handle money, it doesn’t matter what I tell them to do business-wise, nothing is going to change if the person doesn’t change,” he said. “It’s a kick in the face to see that the patterns that got them to this place, aren’t going to get them out of it. The level of thinking that caused these problems is not the level of thinking that’s going to get you out of them.”
Young, in his training and on his podcast, broaches tough subjects and conversations, saying the things many producers wouldn’t dare. To that end, he also trains participants to guide challenging conversations to minimize emotion and meet goals.
“I want to make sure I get what I want but I also want to get the other person what they want,” he said. “When we approach the conversation from this angle, it takes the anger out of the conversation.”
He said in talking with participants, many of whom are involved in a family operation, he has learned of problems that could be solved through a conversation that didn’t take place for years, knowing the result would be anger and resentment. Not only does this failure to have the tough conversations have a high financial cost from missed opportunities, but also a high cost of energy and time.
One client’s tough conversation was with her father whose operation was failing. In working with Young and making business decisions, she has now expanded her operation enough to be on track to purchase the farm from him, solving several problems.
No matter the operation or its challenges, Young is driven to help clients lead their families and their businesses, saving other farm families from the experiences he had as a kid witnessing the bankruptcy of his family operation. ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 392-4410.